Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 11 - What is Yoga? What is Religion?
Date: Sun Nov 16, 2003 11:47am
Yoga. Religion. These two words conjure up so many images, don’t they? Not all of them clear. Not all of them good. Let’s not get into the foibles of humanity right now. Let’s stick to the basics. For spiritual practice is best seen in terms of the basics, and often is clouded by the cultural coloring of these two simple words.
Yoga means, “to join.” Religion means, “to bind back together.” Hmmm… similar meanings. But to join or bind back together what? Ah… this is the essence of it. We are, or seem to be, two things that are to be put back together. On the one hand we are in the world of space and time, a world we perceive through our senses. On the other hand we are observers of the world, something behind it all, within it all. We are conscious. Aware. We are both subject (observer) and object (observed). And these two things are separate. But must they be? Are they really? Yoga and religion say “no.” So the putting together process starts there. No matter whatever else you may have heard, that is what yoga and religion are really about.
But why the separation in the first place? If the two are really one, why are there two? Think about yourself for a minute. Who are you? Most of us point to our body and say, “This is me.” We all sense something more, but the best we can do is observe our body and say, “This is me. This is my body. My name is Joe Schmo. I can think and feel, and that is part of me too.” If you were to say to someone, “I am something behind all this that you see, and behind all this that I think and feel. I am consciousness,” might it seem a bit strange? Why strange? Because we are identified with our perceptions of our body/minds and this world. It is a habit, a deeply biologically and neurologically ingrained habit. Not only that. Because we habitually imprint our sense of self on our body/mind, we see our physical surroundings as separate from ourselves. So the world becomes a stranger to itself. Through our process of identified perception the one has become many.
Yoga and religion are about clearing up the identification of awareness that has led to the one becoming many. Not that the world will go away. It is only to be seen for what it really is, a flow of the one, the real you. Then it becomes a much friendlier place. That’s the whole point, to find happiness in our lives in the world. Even as the whole thing keeps lurching forward through the shadows of apparent separateness, we don’t have to go on seeing it that way. This is the promise of yoga and religion. This is the promise of spiritual practices. It’s a good promise. It is up to us to fulfill the promise of yoga and religion, using the means that are offered.
The joining is not just about an intellectual understanding of the situation, though that can’t hurt. It is about changing our deepest functioning, biologically and neurologically. Then does our experience change. From that, our thoughts, feelings and actions change, becoming full of love and purpose. We could all use more of that. The identification gradually dissolves, and something stupendous comes up from within us. Yoga is not just an intellectual process. It is physical, as anyone who has taken a yoga class knows. Yoga practices operate on many levels — physical, mental, emotional, neurological — and in galaxies of inner ecstatic energy!
The process of joining begins with making direct contact with our inner self, our consciousness. Once we have established a foothold in consciousness, we can proceed from there with many other things. Becoming aware of our deepest consciousness on a regular basis is peaceful and pleasant and can bring immediate relief to a hectic, busy life. It is accomplished with meditation. A very particular kind of meditation called deep meditation. This is the first advanced yoga practice we will learn on our road to union, on the way to binding ourselves back together. It is a good first step that brings a big return for a small daily effort.
“Daily effort?” you say. This is what we will talk about next. For without a commitment to a daily effort, you will be wasting your time here, and anywhere else.
The guru is in you.